10 Feb 2008

Then is Now


(This interview was originally published in The New York Times Magazine, April 8, 1979
Stone further developed his ideas about the Socrates trial and published them in his 1988 book, The Trial of Socrates

What’s the puzzle

The Athens of Socrates’s time has gone down in history as the very place where democracy and freedom of speech were born. Yet that city put Socrates, its most famous philosopher, to death. Presumably this was because it citizens did not like what he was teaching. Yet he had been teaching there all his life, unmolested. Why did they wait until he was 70, and had only a few years to live, before executing him

Why should this fascinate an old Washington muckraker like you

Because it’s a black eye for all I believe in, for democracy and free speech. Anyone who starts out to study the problem of free speech in depth – as I did after ill health forced me to give up my Weekly – is irresistibly drawn back to ancient Athens, where it all began

Isn’t that pretty far from home base, from current concerns and difficulties

Not really. All our basic problems are there in miniature. I fell in love with the Athenians and the participatory democracy they developed. Free discussion was the rule everywhere – in the Assembly, the law courts, the theatre, and the gymnasiums where they spent much of their leisure. Free speech – what the Greeks called parrhasia – was as much taken for granted as breathing

But then I was stopped, or stumped, by this contradictory and traumatic spectacle of what they did to Socrates. These people and this city, to which I look back for inspiration – how could they have condemned this philosopher to death? How could so blatant a violation of free speech occur in a city that prided itself on freedom of inquiry and expression

But why should we care at this late date

Because Plato turned the trial of his master, Socrates, into a trial of Athens and of democracy. He used it to demonstrate that the common people were too ignorant, benighted and fickle to entrust with political power. In Plato’s "Apology," the contrast drawn between the nobility of Socrates and the grim verdict of his juror-judges indicted democracy in the eyes of posterity. And thanks to his genius, no other trial except that of Jesus has so captured the imagination of Western man

Plato made Socrates the secular martyred saint of the struggle against democracy. He stigmatized it as "mobocracy." Yet this was the very same "mob" which applauded the anti-war plays of Aristophanes when Athens was fighting for its life against Sparta. (No such antiwar plays were allowed, by either side, during our last two World Wars). This was the same "mob" whose eagerness for new ideas, and its readiness to hear them, drew philosophers from all over the ancient world. It made Athens – in the proud words of Pericles – "the school of Hellas," the university of the Greek world. It is the high repute of Athens that makes the trial of Socrates so puzzling

Do we know the actual charges against Socrates

There were two charges: first, that Socrates violated the law by "refusing to do reverence to the gods recognized by the city, and introducing other new divinities," and second, by "corrupting the youth." But we do not have the text of the laws on which these charges were based, nor the specific allegations

So we do not know just what Socrates is supposed to have said or done that made him seem disrespectful of the city gods. Nor do we know what was meant by the charge of corrupting the youth. Under Athenian legal procedure such specifics were required in a preliminary complaint and hearing before a magistrate, who then decided whether the allegations and the evidence were sufficient to warrant a trial. But we have no account of this preliminary procedure, the equivalent of our grand jury

I. F. Stone

I. F. StoneAKA Isador Feinstein

Born: 24-Dec-1907
Birthplace: Philadelphia, PA
Died: 17-Jul-1989
Location of death: Boston, MA
Cause of death: Heart Failure

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Journalist, Publisher


Beautiful Babylon Babies Unite !!!

This Blog existed after Bush II "the lesser" stole 2 elections, before Google ate Blogger,

This Blog existed after Bush II "the lesser" stole 2 elections, before Google ate Blogger,
Love Trumps hate.

Hits of the Month

Poetic HyperLinks Defeating the Impossibilities of Peace

Also sprach Zarathustra to the brothasistahs lost out in the woods…
Rolling stones and hurricanes prime us for the rapid eye movement of whose dream?
A stairway to the dark side of the moon reveals an orchestrated King
singing the blues while sexual pistols whip Jesus’ son.
Who’s influence weens us?
Me and my friends gratefully raged against the machine for three days
in the shadow of the valley of the dead
so big brother and company held us down while the wind cried
nothing to be gained here (except copied rights),
Then a questing tribe of beastly boys found a digable plant
where a buffalo soldier picked up a Gideon’s bible from the Godfather
in joe’s garage (or was it in one of 200 motels?)
Anyway, on a Holiday, the pinball wizard boy (Billie)
followed his heart and stopped pretending he was the king of the little plastic castles
while education, missed in the house of the naked apes, evolved and mutated
into and with ~ Nature Art Love Truth ~ and we do too…
And somewhere over the rainbow dancing fools send clowns and purple rain
into imagine nations where everything is now sacred
and there are no more public enemies or rusted Roots or minor threats
or bad brains or busted rhymes or widespread panic
and everyone can read the hieroglyphics on the wall
and we are all refugees of courtney’s love attaining nirvana….
But then again, you’re so vain, you probly think this poem’s about you-
we are everywhere and we cannot be beaten
it’s all over now baby blue, all we need is Love
Legalize It